I’m watching the special edition of Meet the Press hosting the last debate of the GOP presidential candidates before Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have landed some haymakers on Governor Romney — roundhouse rights that pack something of a wallop. Governors Perry and Hunstman have acquitted themselves decently. Governor Romney has done a good job fending for himself without punching back. He exhibits an exemplary demeanor and a quick wit. I’ve thought this a weak field, but I was wrong. Our A team is on the bench, but this is a respectable field. Watching the candidates this morning, you nevertheless have to be concerned that Obama is the principal beneficiary of the candidates’ exercise of their skills at this point.
Despite all the talk of needed reforms in these debates, there is an elephant in the room. Yesterday in the ABC/WMUR/Yahoo debate it was ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, the debate’s moderator. This morning in the NBC/Facebook/Union Leader debate it is NBC’s David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press and moderator of this debate. They are remorseless hacks. These supposed moderators are men on a mission to take down the candidates by making them appear crazy or by separating them from the base of the Republican Party. It’s a useful exercise to see how the candidates deal with these moderators, because whoever is the nominee will have to deal with their likes during the campaign against Obama. But there must be a better way.
Commenting on last night’s show, Hugh Hewitt finds “A rout of ABC.” Hugh observes: “Being willing to push back against the MSM with the right amount of disdain is a delicate balancing act, easily overdone.” This morning Hugh follows up with a view to David Gregory:
[L]ike last night, the biggest takeaway is that one of the biggest challenges facing the GOP nominee will be the absolute, undisguised bias of the Beltway MSM, which has now seeped into local media. David Gregory actually began one question by stating “the reality of the situation” in a completely partisan fashion, and also echoed the emerging Obama campaign theme of an obstructionist Congress. Gregory loaded the questions with obvious bias again and again, and Newt called him on it twice, as Romney did last night with George Stephanopoulos.
As I say, there must be a better way.
UPDATE: I didn’t explore the roundhouse rights that Romnney took during this debate, but they elicited an obvious stretcher or two that Ben Smith notes. We all know why Governor Romney didn’t run for a second term as Massachusetts governor. His “explanation” was groanworthy.
AND SEE THIS: Steve Hayes judges “Romney mediocre, Santorum strong, Ginrich mixed,” while Jonathan Last adds some color.